Yesterday I spied a tri fold envelope of yeast way up high on the shelf of the pantry, just the scant corner of it... grabbing it I saw it was slightly out of date and always being a frugal and waste not want not kind of person I mulled the possibilities of something to bake.
Ahhhh! My dear husband last summer stopped on his way home at a yard sale and for 1 tiny dollar bill, procured for me a wondrous tome of baking delight. A copy of Bernard Clayton's, New Complete Book Of Breads! Wow!
All fall and winter I was mesmerized and perused through and marked MANY interesting bread recipes that I stored in the back of my mind for future use.. But as sometimes happens with me, in my scattered and chaotic fashion the book was moved about the kitchen and eventually stored atop my dish and Pyrex pan shelves. Not forgotten, just resting and waiting for me to succumb to its allure again... and every so often my eyes would travel up to where it was and I would chide myself for not utilizing this treasure trove of Bread Gold.
Today was the day! Ripe and ready ... Bread was to be baked! I thumbed through the book and then decided to let it fall open and if I had the ingredients on hand, that would be the bread I would bake.. I knew there were 2 recipes that I had visited more than others and I bet myself that the book would fall open at one or the other, and I was not disappointed. It would either be Challah or Braided Peasant bread... I set the book on its spine and pulled my hands away.. the book opened like a lovely flower and,... YES!!! Braided Peasant Loaf on page 268.
A basic peasant type bread, it was flour, salt, dry yeast, a small amount of sugar, water vegetable shortening and 1 egg for an egg wash.
I am on a sodium restricted diet so I only used half the salt, and I had 3 small egg yolks in the fridge, begging to be used so I added 2 of them to the batter, I knew this might affect the texture, guessing that would make the bread finer grained and soft. I kneaded it for 10 minutes or slightly more in bowl, which is something I do rather then turning out and kneading on a table.
The interesting part of this bread is that after it's kneaded and put in an oiled bowl, every 10 minutes it's punched down and deflated, balled and turned and then allowed to rise again. After 5 deflations it is rested until doubled in volume, about one half hour in a warm spot.
Following the recipe I turned out the mass after it was Fluffy and Huge, and kneaded down again and divided the dough in half, then each half was cut into 3 pieces and rolled into 16" ropes. The recipe called for a baking sheet with a liberal coating of cornmeal, uhh oh. Out of cornmeal... But I did have a box of Matzah meal ... I would use that.
I turned my oven up to 400 degrees and on my baking sheet I braided my ropes. Lovely. But they looked so very naked! I would figure something out.
I covered the braids with a large loose sheet of plastic wrap and left the sheet on top of the warming oven, after 30 minutes I checked and the loafs were very large and puffy! I peeled back the plastic wrap and gently used my egg yolk wash to coat the dough. That looked decidedly better, but the pale dough still looked "naked" to me, Ahhh... Black sesame seeds. I scattered a liberal amount of them over the egg washed braids and felt content that this was the missing eye appeal. And into the oven they went.
35 minutes later, the smell of bread and toasted sesame, filled my house. I was happy. A slightly modified recipe of Braided Peasant Loaf. And Very tasty.
Next time, I will use bread flour and follow the recipe to the letter, I want to get a more artisan loaf with a more open and chewy texture... But this bread came out wonderfully, soft soft fluffy interior with a very crisp and almost flaky crust. I can't wait for my husband to see what I did today!